Pakistan opposes a nuclear and conventional weapons arms race in South Asia, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

But Tasnim Aslam also declined to reject a report saying the country was expanding its atomic arms capabilities.

Monday's Washington Post cited independent analysts as saying Pakistan had started work on a new reactor at its Khushab atomic site. The move, the paper said, could signal a major expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capabilities.

"This ought to be no revelation to anyone because Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state." Aslam said. "(But) I have no specific comments on Pakistan's facilities."

Click here to go to the Washington Post article.

Aslam defended Pakistan, saying it was not the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into South Asia. The comment apparently referred to archrival India, with whom this Muslim nation has fought three wars with since 1947.

"We were not the first to test nuclear weapons in this region and that remains our position," Aslam said during a press conference. "We do not want an arms race in this region."


Pakistan conducted its only nuclear tests in May 1998 to match those of India carried out earlier that same month. India detonated its first nuclear explosion in 1974.

The Washington Post cited an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security that said satellite photos of Khushab showed construction of what appeared to be a reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

It said an assessment by the Washington-based nuclear experts concluded that would represent a 20-fold increase from Pakistan's existing capabilities.

The Post also quoted a senior Pakistani official, speaking on condition of anonymity, as acknowledging that a nuclear expansion was under way.

News of the developments in Pakistan comes as the U.S. Congress gets ready to take up a nuclear cooperation agreement between the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and India in which New Delhi would get access to sensitive U.S. nuclear technology in exchange for agreeing to more stringent safeguards over its civilian nuclear reactors.